A Survivor Of The Las Vegas Massacre Has A Message For People Who Bashed Trump And Pushed Gun Control After The Attack

Photo: Brandy Sanderson
Brandy Sanderson Las Vegas Shooting survivor
Buzz, Heartbreak

Brandy Sanderson talks about the night of the shooting and the outrage and pain afterwards.

It was October 1, 2017, the final night of the 3-day Route 91 Harvest Festival when Stephen Paddock began his shooting spree sometime after 10 p.m. from his Mandalay Bay Hotel suite in Las Vegas. 

Initially believed to be fireworks or a blown out speaker, concert attendees continued to dance until the carnage around them started to unfold; people were being shot, trampled as they ran, and some left for dead in the field that only moments ago was filled with joy, happiness, and music. It's easy to watch the news on television, send a prayer, create a social media post expressing your condolences, and then move on because it didn't directly impact you. But what happens when you are actually there? What happens when you are there to hear the sound of automatic gunfire and see people around you filled with blood? 

Though the internet has gone full on conspiracy theory with this incident, calling it a false flag (an incident designed to deceive the public) and insisting there were crisis actors getting paid to play dead, the truth of the matter is that this did happen.

Fifty-eight people lost their lives and 546 more were injured, some critically.


RELATED: Experts Reveal Whether Side Effects Of Valium Could Be Why Stephen Paddock Carried Out The Las Vegas Mass Shooting


Brandy Sanderson and her husband J attended all three nights of the festival and were able to get close to the stage on the last night — a night neither of them will soon forget. She was gracious enough to speak with us about what happened that night. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your husband.

I'm a Vegas native. My hubby and I have been together 19 years. We used to go clubbing when we were younger. Now we work really hard. We decided to stop acting old and attend our first music festival. ​

So you and your husband went all 3 nights? Where were you in relation to the stage on October 1st?

Yes, we attended all 3 days. This time we were very close to the stage (right side) next to the rear bar. We had a stay vacation at the Delano that weekend. I screwed up on on the reservations and only reserved 2 days instead of 3. We walked back and forth to the festival in between the Mandalay Bay and Delano. It's crazy to think that he may have been looking through his scope planning the attack on previous nights.


Brandy and J about ten minutes before Stephen Paddock began his shooting rampage.

Did you hear any gunfire prior to the automatic weapon going off?

Honestly, it sounded like firecrackers. When the second round hit, that's when we realized it was gunfire.​

What was your first reaction? Did you run? Did you see anybody get hit?

During the second round, we wanted to run but couldn't. All of the concert goers squeezed together to get close to the stage. All we could was get close to the ground. We had to wait through several rounds for others to start moving.

Was security directing you?

No, it was absolute chaos. Lots of screaming, crying and people begging for it to stop. At one point I looked up and saw a security guy in a yellow shirt standing in an area behind the stage where a barricade was removed and that's where we ran to.

Warning: Graphic Language and Sounds of Gunfire

At that point, did you know where the gunfire was coming from? Did you see anyone with a gun?

Didn't know where it was coming from. I will stick to my story that there were multiple shooters. You could hear well coordinated gunfire, it was coming from all directions. When we ran, we ended up between a tour bus and a white trailer. The gunfire started to get closer to us as if someone was walking our way.

When the gunfire felt like it was coming closer, where were you in relation to where you were when it first began and the Mandalay?

We were still behind the stage, in a parking area. Thankfully there were a couple of cops protecting us at that point.

Did you see anyone injured?

I had no idea people were hurt until 2 guys carried a bloody girl over. She looked dead or very close to passing away. My hubby jumped up and started beating on the trailer door. I started yelling for them to open the "f*cking door." The guys carried the girl inside. Seconds later they asked for belts for use tourniquet.

What was running through your head? 

My husband and I reacted differently. We both thought we were going to die. He started calling family members to say goodbye. I started crying to our son. He was injured in Afghanistan and would call us during combat to say 'I love you.'  We could always hear in his voice that something was off. They were on the phone together for the final two rounds of gunfire. I started crying but then looked around at all the kids around laying there with us. My momma bear mode kicked in. Because the gunfire was getting closer, I told a couple of young girls 'If sh*t goes sideways you need to hide under that bus. We were going to run and that would make us the target, but they needed to hide and try to save themselves.' They were in their early 20s ... our son is 21. It really hit home how young they were.

What happened next?

A female officer was standing there protecting us. She looked just as scared as we were. I wanted to run immediately, but my husband told me no. The path from our spot is along a long, open area in the dirt where there is nowhere to hide. After the last round, a male officer told us to run. How 100 people got up immediately and ran without tripping is amazing. When it was our time to run initially, I tripped over someone. I went down hard on my knees. My husband lifted me up and that's when we got to the trailer. When we were told to run along the path behind the stage to the parking area, it was all open. I couldn't run far because my knees were in a lot of pain from cracking them on the asphalt.

When we reached the parking lot, we found a guy (believed to be an undercover cop). He had intel that there were active shooters on multiple properties. We moved with him. We stopped next to a white truck and were planning our path, when we heard a little voice. Two teenage girls were hiding in the bed of the truck. They asked me what to do. I told them to keep hiding. We had idea if the shooters would follow us. I didn't want to get them hurt.

We made it to a crappy apartment complex. My hubby said he was never so happy to be in the [bad part of town]. We ended up at Top Golf and took a taxi home. The city was on lockdown freeways, strip, everything. It took forever to get to [our] home in North Las Vegas.

When we got home, we poured whiskey, turned on the news and cried. An hour or so later, I looked down and realized that I had someone's blood on my pants. It's on both sides of my legs. I've never showered so fast.

What was it like speaking to your son for the first time when you knew you both were safe?

We called him that night when we finally got home. He was happy to hear that we made it out. This may have triggered possible PTSD for him having to hear the gunshots and us giving our goodbyes. He's a tough guy and will never tell us how he really feels (thank the Army for that one).

His best friends (who are both Army Reserves) have been like sons to me. They and my son's girlfriend (Air Force) came over the next day. They brought us dinner and watched the news. No one believes this is a lone wolf situation.  I started crying like a baby on the couch, seeing all the love in the room.

Do you feel the media has accurately represented what you experienced that night? 

The FBI immediately reported that he had no terrorist ties. Really? Aren’t they still chasing their tail on trying to find evidence of the Trump-Russia collusion, but they KNOW immediately all about this guy. The photos that were leaked of the crime scene were suspect. 

Why were there spent casings on top of his blood? Why was there a large gun placed over his leg? Also, what investigation do you know of where they immediately release photographs?

It sounded like multiple shooters that night. The gunfire changed directions — sounded low and high. It got louder as the gunman approached us. That night the security personnel searching us when we entered the venue seemed off. We had a bad feeling when we had to interact with them. It wasn't the 'I hate my job' look. It was that nasty, sizing you up and down and then when their eyes met yours … pure hate. It’s a feeling that I won’t forget. I believe there were a lot of people involved in pulling this shooting off.  We will never know the truth. Vegas is a tourist destination. If it gets out that there were multiple shooters and only one person was caught, our tourist economy will take a heavy hit.

How have you and your husband been since the incident?

WOW, it has been crazy. I work part-time as a paralegal and we own a plumbing company. We have been so booked with work that he had no other choice but to work each job. I called in to the law firm for the week. They weren't sensitive or supportive of our PTSD. I have decided life is too short for toxic people; I'm giving my notice.

We felt numb and sick to our stomachs. I have survivors guilt really bad because young kids died. I felt like I should have done more to help. We attended a tribute at Stoney's Country Bar. It was all donations for the victims.  We ordered a few drinks and donated $500. We stayed by the exit the entire time. The next night was an American Flag run: 700+ cars, trucks and motorcycles drove the strip and to the various hospitals. Seeing the cross memorial at the Vegas sign and driving by Mandalay Bay and the festival hurt. 

We stopped at a red light and thanked the officers who were guarding the site. We also thanked the homeless vets standing outside Veterans Village, watching our flag run. We have nightmares. I have more than my husband. The little sleep I get is full of nightmares. It's been really hard to process. Today I ran errands for the first time - with my gun strapped to my hip. Talk about anxiety. 

The next weekend we decided to have a "live life to the fullest" day. We woke up at 5am and went for the best nachos at Big Dogs Brewery. We chased them down with an expensive Belgium beer aged in Jameson whiskey barrel. We then drove past future Marines having a car wash and donated $400. We talked to them about our son's war experience and told them to always tell your family you love them.

At the Vegas sign memorial, it hit us hard to see the crosses. There was a group of men singing religious songs. They were dressed like the band Suicidal Tendencies AND they were all Latino. To think that a majority of the victims were white, country music folks and yet these guys showed up to show their support without a care for the victims’ race is something truly amazing.   

After we left the Vegas sign memorial, we drove to Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada. We purchased a spot on the Memorial Wall for Vegas Strong. We didn't want anyone to forget the victims. I designed the text and have asked the rock blasting company to add the Vegas skyline artwork (from the Vegas Strong shirts).

When you buy a spot on the Memorial Wall you can add a box to the time capsule to be opened in 100 years. We’re going to include our Route 91 bracelet, the Stoney's bracelet from the tribute we attended as well as the blue LED candle from the candlelight vigil that was held right before the American Flag Run. 

I started gathering photos and videos for a thumb drive. We will be delivering the box for the time capsule once the rock blasting is complete. The spot we purchased is directly above the time capsule.    



We drove down the strip to the Vegas sign and placed candles at the first and last cross. That was the hardest thing to do.  The crosses have each victim's name and picture. We started crying like crazy and were holding each other. 


I had my gun on my hip and a news crew filmed us. We then went home and I wrote a big piece about hate causing violence and posted it on a few pages.

Do you mind sharing what you wrote?

[The following was shared on Brandy's Facebook page on October 8, 2017]:

I’m still fuming over the a**holes who made hateful posts about Trump immediately after the shooting. Your contempt for those who were having the best times of their lives while attending a country concert and then were suddenly mowed down by a crazy man with several guns is beyond words.

You have NO idea what we went through that night. You don’t have nightmares of the screams and people begging for the shooting to stop. You didn't see young adults suddenly wishing they were home with their mommies. J and I carry the heavy burden of survivor’s guilt. We have no idea why we were chosen to survive, but we will not waste this opportunity to enlighten others.

The media has stirred the pot of hate and it was a matter of time before it boiled over. People have lost their damn minds after the election. Instead of being, “America Strong” and moving forward with open minds and giving our President a chance, they resorted to threats, sh*tting on our Freedom of Speech, disrespecting our Flag and our National Anthem and physically attacking anyone who doesn't want to be a part of the “Mindless Sheep Club.” 

You can assume that a majority of the concert goers were white, Trump supporters, gun owners, military and police supporters and religious. Well folks, I’m white, I voted for Trump, I’m a military mom, I support Blue Lives Matter and I love my gun rights. This made us the perfect target. Will it change my beliefs?? HELL NO!!!

Contrary to belief, we don’t wish harm for any of those who voted for Hillary. Hell, I was a life-long democrat until this election. I was smart enough NOT to listen to the fake news. I researched both sides and their agendas. I watched their rallies and I was disgusted by the media [plucking] out a single word from Trump’s speeches and spinning the story to get all of you to hate him.  All I want is for you to Google his speeches and listen for yourselves what he really said. Then and only then, you will realize that you were fed a big a** plate of BS.  

The outpouring of support we received from people we met ONCE or have hung out with a handful of times hit us hard. We realized that those closest to us and those who have known us the longest [barely] gave two sh*ts about our survival. We fought for our lives that night. I was fortunate enough to wake up next to my hero. J saved my life that night. I tripped over someone and went down hard. I could barely walk and somehow Superman J was able to lift me up, feet kicking in the air so that we could continue running to a position protected by police.

To those inconsiderate a**holes posting, “f*ck America, f*ck the flag, f*ck the Anthem” you a**holes were considered friends. Your words hit us deeply as parents of a Wounded Warrior. Our ONLY child almost died. I’m not a fake person. I won’t post passive-aggressive sh*t and then smile in your face. You hit our family deeply and are no longer considered friends. 

The knee-jerk reaction is to push for gun control. This is what they want. No, we need to become educated, trained and become more aware of our surroundings. I will live, I will learn, I will survive. I have no taste whatsoever for the “fake news media” kool-aid. I prefer whiskey!

You think you’re strong. Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re stronger. 

In closing, if this picture infuriated you more than the fact that lots of people died over a senseless act, congratulations, you’re the problem! VEGAS STRONG!!!!!!!!


The Sanderson's truck in front of Trump International Hotel.

 

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I was two weeks into a 6-week Crossfit challenge. I lost 10 lbs and was really excited to have the energy to attend all three days at the festival. J and I were sore Sunday morning. Since I screwed up on the reservations, we checked out of the Delano and headed home. We fed our dogs, took a nap and then I took a hot Epsom salt bath. I also changed my mind on what boots to wear. The other pair had a tall heel and seemed suddenly too big for my feet. I look back at that morning and wonder if all those little things worked together to save my life that night.    

Today's my birthday and I haven’t answered the phone yet because I’m still recovering from yet another migraine. I’ve had them ever since the shooting. They are most likely from lack of sleep and stress. Sleep hasn't been my friend. I have a nightmare every time I pass out; even during naps that I try to take during the day. At 1 a.m., my husband tried to apply pressure under my skull to dull the pain. I’m staying positive because I know it will get better ... eventually.

We'd like to thank Brandy Sanderson for sharing her story with YourTango. 

All photos courtesy of Brandy Sanderson.

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